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Mark 7:11

ESV But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, "Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban"’ (that is, given to God) —
NIV But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)—
NASB but you say, ‘If a person says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is, given to God),’
CSB But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or mother: Whatever benefit you might have received from me is corban’" (that is, an offering devoted to God),
NLT But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’
KJV But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
NKJV But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God),

What does Mark 7:11 mean?

The concept of corban is understandably confusing since it is not defined in the Bible. It is a type of vow that devotes something to God, or the temple, which bans its use by another. Jesus refers to a case where a son declares that his property and possessions shall not be used to benefit his parents, but rather given to the temple. Or, at least, by "declaring" as much, whether or not it was physically given to the temple. It's unclear why such an oath would be made, but it could have been made in the heat of an argument and shortly after regretted. The vow does not mean that the property must be donated to the priests or another worthy cause, just that it cannot be used to benefit those whom it might have belonged to otherwise.

Of course, the oath itself breaks both the commandment to honor one's father and mother (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16) and the law forbidding a child to curse his parents (Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9). But to renege on the vow would be against Numbers 30:2 which states, "If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth."

The Jewish elders had to determine which was worse: to abandon your responsibility to your parents or to break an oath? According to the oral law, the oath is paramount. Even if someone wanted to support their parents, the scribes and Pharisees would forbid it (Mark 7:12) if they'd declared some or all of their property as corban. In doing so, they use manmade tradition and legalism to nullify God's commandment and the intent behind it (Mark 7:13).

We see this today in any church that encourages members to make a pledge of money or time and holds to that pledge even if circumstances change. If someone pledges to donate to a new building but loses his job, he should not be held to that pledge. If a woman promises to teach for a year but is unexpectedly overwhelmed by family demands, the church should do what it can to support her, not demand her service. Of course, Jesus would suggest that we just don't make vows (Matthew 5:33–37).
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